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Political Paralysis in the Gilded Age. Pgs. 516-522. The Blaine-Cleveland Mudslingers of 1884. James G. Blaine became the Republican candidate, but some Republican reformers, unable to stomach this, switched to the Democratic Party and were called Mugwumps .

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the blaine cleveland mudslingers of 1884
The Blaine-Cleveland Mudslingers of 1884
  • James G. Blaine became the Republican candidate, but some Republican reformers, unable to stomach this, switched to the Democratic Party and were called Mugwumps.
  • The Democrats chose Grover Cleveland, a renowned reformer as their candidate but received a shock when it was revealed that he might have been the father of an illegitimate child.
  • Grover Cleveland (1837–1908)A strong supporter of civil-servicereform and tariff reduction,President-elect Cleveland wasalso the country’s most eligiblebachelor. In this cartoon of 1884,he is shown struggling to avoidoffice seekers on the one sideand potential mothers-in-law onthe other.

Possibly the most powerful image the magazine ever ran was this one, mocking presidential Republican candidate James Blaine. Influential political cartoonist Joseph Keppler was a supporter of Democrat Grover Cleveland, and cartoons like this swayed public opinion. Cleveland beat Blaine in the presidential election of 1884.

  • The campaign of 1884 was filled with perhaps the lowest mudslinging in history.
  • The contest boiled down to New York’s choice, but unfortunately, one foolish Republican (much to Blaine’s dismay) insulted the race, faith, and patriotism of New York’s heavy Irish population, and as a result, New York swung to Cleveland. That was the difference.

Little Lost Mugwumps WhoHad Gone Astray James G.Blaine, depicted as Little BoPeep, tries to woo the errantMugwump reformers back intothe Republican fold in 1884.

old grover takes over
“Old Grover” Takes Over
  • Portly Grover Cleveland (“Big Steve”) was the first Democratic president since James Buchanan (and the last one until Woodrow Wilson in 1912). As a supporter of laissez-faire capitalism, he delighted business owners and bankers.
  • Cleveland named two former Confederates to his cabinet, and at first tried to adhere to the merit system instead of the spoils system, but eventually, he gave in to his party and fired almost 2/3 of the 120,000 federal employees – most of them Republican.
  • Military pensions plagued Cleveland; these bills were given to Civil War veterans to help them, but they were used fraudulently to give money to all sorts of people.
  • However, Cleveland showed that he was ready to tackle corruption. He took on the corrupt distributors of military pensions when he vetoed a bill that would add several hundred thousand new people on the pension list.
cleveland battles for a lower tariff
Cleveland Battles for a Lower Tariff
  • By 1881, the Treasury had a surplus of $145 million, most of it having come from the high tariff, and there was a lot of clamoring for lowering the tariff, though big industrialists opposed it.
  • Cleveland wasn’t really interested in the subject at first, but as he researched it, he became inclined towards lowering the tariff, so in late 1887, Cleveland openly tossed the appeal for lower tariffs into the lap of Congress.
  • Democrats were upset at the obstinacy of their chief while Republicans gloated at his apparently reckless act.
  • The old warrior Blaine gloated, “There’s one more President for us in [tariff ] protection.”
  • For the first time in years, a real issue divided the two parties as the 1888 presidential election loomed.
election of 1888
Election of 1888
  • Dismayed Democrats, seeing no alternative, somewhat dejectedly nominated Grover Cleveland in their St. Louis convention.
  • Eager Republicans turned to Benjamin Harrison, whose grandfather was former president William Henry (“Tippecanoe”) Harrison.
  • The tariff was the prime issue, and the two parties flooded the country with some 10 million pamphlets on the subject.

The specter of a lowered tariff spurred the Republicans to frantic action.

  • In an impressive demonstration of the post–Pendleton Act politics of alliances with big business, they raised a war chest of some $3 million—the heftiest yet—largely by “frying the fat” out of nervous industrialists.
  • The money was widely used to line up corrupt “voting cattle” known as “repeaters” and “floaters.”
  • In Indiana, always a crucial “swing” state, votes were shamelessly purchased for as much as $20 each.

On election day Harrison nosed out Cleveland, 233 to 168 electoral votes.

  • A change of about 7,000 ballots in New York would have reversed the outcome.
  • Cleveland actually polled more popular votes, 5,537,857 to 5,447,129, but he nevertheless became the first sitting president to be voted out of his chair since Martin Van Buren in 1840.